Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Keeping Statistics Yes or No

Game Scoresheet Click for Scoresheet

Many coaches ask me if it’s a good idea to keep player stats. MY response in typically, at the older levels, absolutely. At the younger levels,(12 and under) maybe not. I believe that by the time a player hits the age of 13 he should understand the meaning of statistics and how useful they can be.

I keep track of as many useful stats as I can without overburdening my coaches or players. I like to track


For the goalies I like to track


I ask my backup goaltender to track statistics for the game so that he isn’t just sitting around doing nothing. I track the Plus/Minus myself to be sure we get that right. I will ask the coaches to monitor things like turnovers and hits. I also like to know where the turnovers are happening. All this information can really help during a game. For instance, wouldn’t it be nice to know which center is winning the most face-offs so if there is a big face-off to be won you have the right guy on the ice? Many times late in a game I will have two centers on the ice in case one gets tossed from the circle.

Plus/Minus is a huge help in knowing who is allowing the most goals. Now, I understand that Plus/Minus can be a misleading stat at times, but over the course of a long season it really starts to paint a picture of who the better defensive players on the team really are.

Goal Location is another that I like to track closely. Most coaches know that the major majority of goals are scored within 10 feet of the net, but if you track the location of the goals you can see if there is anywhere else that you need to cover more closely. Two seasons ago I found that a significant number of goals were being scored from the top of the left circle against one goalie and not the other. I called in a goalie coach and he found a hole in the goaltenders style above his glove that we were able to work on and improve the problem.

Nothing beats good old gut instincts when you are on the bench, but having hard facts in front of you can really help. I know between every period when I speak with the team I let them know how we are doing in the face-off battle and where the shots are coming from our opponent. It gives the players a quick insight to in-game situations that you may not speak to them about without stats.

My verdict is to keep stats and make good use of them.

Filed under: General, , , ,

Update from Columbus Tier I Tournament

Had the pleasure of speaking with Ken Hitchcock of the Blue Jackets. He was here to watch a friend’s son from the Dallas team. Real down to earth guy with a deep love of the game.

Spent a few minutes with John Markell the head coach at Ohio State. For a guy like me who coaches high school hockey spending a few minutes with a D1 head coach was like meeting a rock star. Coach Markell was here to evaluate a handful of players on the tier I teams. There are so many talented players at this tournament and this is only ten of the 25 teams in the league.

I asked him “how cool is it to coach a D1 team” and he said “it’s a wonderful experience, with some headaches from time to time”. I was surprised to see him here by himself instead of just scouts from the team, but he said that he needs to see the players himself to determine if he wants to recruit them.

So far even though the team is 0-1-1 it has been a really good experience. Looking forward to tomorrow’s games against Cleveland and Columbus, should be excellent competition.

Filed under: General

18AAA Tier I Elite League

I’m in Columbus Ohio for the Tier I elite league games. This is the top Tier I league in the country and loaded with top players. A number of the players from this league were drafted into the USHL and NAHL last season and at least one player from the Jr. Flyers was drafted into the NHL by the Toronto Maple Leafs. I’m looking forward to seeing the defending champion Cleveland team play this weekend.

I will keep a close look out at the practice session to see if I can find any high level drills that may help you. I will also speak with the coaches and get some insight on how they keep their teams in top shape throughout the grueling 48 game schedule. Stay tuned for updates.

Coach Nielsen

Filed under: General

Over 8,000 views of Video on YouTube

My video on “defensive Zone Coverage” has been viewed over 8,000 times!

Here is the original video

Here is the updated video.

Filed under: Defense, Systems, , , ,

2 v 1 Drills

I like to dedicate time each practice to 2 v 1 work. We all know that from time to time a pinching defenseman gets caught up ice and his partner has to defend a 2 v 1. I think it’s really important to make sure the defenseman are comfortable with their ability to defend in those situations. Another thing that comes from these drills is as a coach you can see what defenseman are good at defending the 2v1. For instance, if you have a defenseman that just can’t defend the 2v1 very well, it might be a bad idea to pair him with a defenseman that is very offensive minded, because he is likely to be defending 2v1’s because the other D is pinching to make a play.

I have added a few 2v1 drills to the database that you can use to practice the skills needed to defend the 2v1. Make sure you coach the defenseman on proper technique and also how you want them to defend the 2v1. Some coaches prefer to let the puck carrier have a clear shot at the goaltender while the defenseman takes away the passing lane. Others like to force the shooter to make a pass once the rush has reached the top of the circles by having the defenseman attack the shooter. Whatever your philosophy is, be sure that your defenseman know how you want them to react and the goaltender knows what the defenseman is going to do or he will be caught out of position.

Filed under: 1 x 1 - 2 x 1 - 3 x 1, , , , ,

Don’t be Afraid to Practice the Fundamentals

I know a number of coaches who are unwilling or afraid to practice fundamentals because they think their players are too old to practice such mundane things. Well, we have all seen mistakes in our games on very basic plays and thought “how the heck did he make that mistake”. Many times it’s because we forget about the basic fundamentals of ice hockey when we start coaching the older age teams. Keep in mind that many players are coached by their dad’s when they are young and maybe the dad’s aren’t hockey players, so the fundamentals go untaught.

I try to always fit in some type of fundamental skating or passing or even shooting drills to reinforce the fundamentals of the players. Currently in the drills section I have a few skating and passing drills that help on the fundamentals and at the same time keep the players interested in the drill. Remember that if you work on the fundamental stuff the players will become better and thus play better in games. Good luck and have fun with your team.

Filed under: General

Defenseman Support Drills

Here is a video of two basic drills I run to work on proper support habits for the defensemen when we have control of the puck in our zone.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Skating Drill for Defensemen

Here is an animated look at a drill I like to run with the defensemen every second or third paractice that works on skating moves specific to the defensemen. The drill works on short passing, backward skate while carrying the puck, pivots and escape moves. I have posted other defense specific drills in the drill section as well.

6 Part Skating Drill

Filed under: Defensemen, Skating, , , , ,

Modified Umbrella Power Play

Here is a video on the modified umbrella power play set-up.

Filed under: Power Play, Systems, , , ,

Defensive Zone Coverage – The Inverted House

This video outlines the defensive zone coverage called “The House”

Filed under: Defense, Defense, Systems, , , ,



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